Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Is a Luxury…For Your Kids (A Dad’s Response)

Luxury? Ha! The working spouse is hardly putting his feet up, watching the game and drinking a beer with his buddies. Neither is the stay-at-home parent. The only luxury of having a stay-at-home-mom is felt by the children. And that’s how it should be. One dad responds to the whole “the stay-at-home spouse is a luxury to the working parent” concept, below.

IMG_5050Kyle and Brady frolic in the leaves without a care, c. fall 2011

Having had my kids in school – all day! – for over a year now, I’ve relaxed a bit about being super productive with every possible minute of my kid-free time. I still have the overarching sentiment that I must do things during school hours that I can’t do when they are at home. Things like writing, exercising, meeting with colleagues or friends. I save housework, for the most part, for when they are here, because I naturally do that while I am supervising homework or reading time or play dates.

You know what else I can do while my boys are at school?  I can take a nap. Or see the doctor. Or get my hair done.

Yes, those things are luxuries. But it’s not like I do them every day. And if I was working full time out of the house, guess when I would do them? On the weekends, or at the expense of my work, or while a hired babysitter is with the children. There’s a tradeoff no matter when I take a moment for myself.

All the ladies writing now about motherhood and parenting and stay at home vs. working are saying the same things we said five years ago and even farther back, and I’m sure that when we wrote those posts in the Early Internet Age, we were repeating the same struggles that women who came before us did, but using more current technology. It’s the same old story.

One thing that has changed, however, is that more men are talking about it, writing about it, and discussing it amongst themselves. It’s no longer just us housewives or “working moms” who wring our hands and shake our heads in resignation – we can discuss the work/life balance conundrum with our husbands or friends or male colleagues who are fathers. In fact, it was the dad of a traditional-model family (dad works at an office, mom is in charge of the house and kids all day while he is gone, dad feel overworked and pressured, mom teeters between exasperation and extreme gratitude) who sent me the link to this article, which was a reaction to this article, and while the public’s reaction to both was off the mark, I understand what the writers’ points are. They’re new to this gig, which is a struggle. They realize that parenting is easier with a partner, one who picks up the slack where you can’t reach to catch it yourself. But you dangle the word “luxury” out in front of a readership that is supercharged for controversy over working/parenthood, and you create a lovely little internet firestorm for yourself. Well played, newcomers.

I urge readers not to take the bait. Parenting is hard no matter how you do it. The only people who are lounging around in “luxury” are the children, because that’s the whole point.

You all know how I feel about this issue: make your own choices. Find what works best for you and your family. If others criticize you, they can suck it. But I found my friend’s response, the perspective of the working dad responsible for financially supporting a family of five, refreshing, insightful, and heartwarming. He gave me permission to share it here.

Reaction to the “Luxury” Article, by Chris Tjaden:

I think what frosts Elena’s cookies the most is the notion that her sacrifices of being a stay-at-home mom in some way provides a luxury for me. That it enables me to work late when I want have to, travel when I want have to, and render her utterly powerless under the demands of my job. Or as she may question, my abilities to control my own time & my ‘desires’ to conveniently avoid coming home. All very valid questions that I want to reassure are totally not true.

I believe that we are in a very tenuous circumstance:
  1. We are living far from home (and therefore family & friends support) and are constantly reminded of what we don’t have by friends who conveniently have parents come over to cover the kids on a whim. I am sure you can relate.
  2. We are in the throes of [caring for three] very demanding, and still dependent, children.
  3. We are extremely money-strapped…something that we are trying to come to grips with.
  4. Finally, is the issue of Elena’s dealing with some substantially extraordinary health issues.
She is in no way living a life of luxury – if anything, she’s feeling like she’s living a life of a indentured servant – and to suddenly suggest that her misery is providing any sense of luxury for me is infuriating. There was a hope (or shall I dare say an understanding) that when she gave up her work to stay at home, that she would feel a sense of luxury. That I would come home and relieve her so she can have time for herself. That she can have the flexibility to travel home when she wants. That she can have more control over her life. This is clearly not always the case. Yet because of said issues listed above, there doesn’t seem to be a way out of it. Finding the support that we need is just not going to happen, finding daycare for our high–needs kids is improbable due to the time of year and the services that they are receiving. And all of these demands limit her from the one sense of comfort and control that she’s found since this whole mess started…her exercise.
She is a an extremely loving, nurturing and capable mom who is at the end of her rope. She is also a very smart, caring, and strong woman who is clearly capable of working a very successful career. Unfortunately, she is not feeling appreciated for the work and sacrifice that she provides our family.
So is there a luxury that comes because of this? I have to agree that there is, but not just for me. For all of us.
  • Time: because of all that she does, we have the luxury of our weekends. Sure there’s the growing chaos of shuttling kids to activities, but we actually can spend time together as a family (whether it’s going apple–picking, or simply being with the kids in the driveway).
  • Sanity: because she stays home, we avoid the “awake at 5am so we can get ourselves and the kids out the door” phenomenon that comes with working. We avoid the evening mad dash of figuring what to make for dinner/making dinner/getting the kids in bath & bed that has to fit within the 2hr time frame of 6-8pm. And then the ensuing clean the kitchen/do the laundry/get lunches made/pull-out outfits for the next day that follows.
  • Complexity: We avoid the negotiations of who can take time off when one of them is sick or needs to go to the doctor, or what to do if and when my job requires me to stay late or travel. Not to mention the lost weekends between having to squeeze in a week’s worth of chores & shopping, while trying to spend quality time with our kids, whom neither of us has seen during the course of the week. All very real issues.
  • And this would go on, if I had a longer lunch break (which I rarely take)
The bottom line is that Elena is an absolutely amazing mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend to so many. Unfortunately she is also absolutely overwhelmed and under-appreciated. We are so blessed to have her do all that she does for our family. I would like to think that I try to do everything I can do to help to lighten her load when and how I can, but I know that I still do not do enough…I love her unconditionally – regardless of the guilt that she assumes each day on whether she’s doing a good job or not.

Sorry, ladies. He does not yet have a clone. My friend Elena deserves all of this praise and more because she is one of the hardest working stay-at-home-moms I know and the nicest person I have ever met.

Up In Space

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Michal Zacharzewski

Writing is the art that I love. Obvs. I am comfortable spitting words out on a blank sheet of paper, a blank composition window, a bright white new document in word processing software. Even collections of words that are, at first, meaningless to anyone but myself. Or even meaningless to me. (There is always CTRL-Z.)

I also really love music – the music itself moves me but when there’s a particularly clever lyric well then I’m done. Stick a fork in me. I don’t spend a lot of time discovering new music much anymore but Pandora and Spotify and YouTube have helped me in that department.

Last week I started something rather foolish, for a woman whose time is maxed out. I joined NaNoWriMo and typed the first 1700 words of a novel on Saturday morning. And then I wrote about 1800 more the next day. And I have been doing that every day since. In fact I just wrote 1688 more tonight, even though when I sat down to work tonight I had no idea what I would write next.

Forcing myself to work on this, to push the story forward, to explore what the characters will do, to live in this world – it puts me into an unknown mood. I’m not used to writing fiction. It feels closest to the times when I was young and studying, immersed in learning. It’s not like getting lost in a good novel that someone else has written. This is a world I am researching but the files are inside my head.

This writing makes me contemplative and puts me in a dark mood. The story takes place in the afterlife, which I don’t even really believe in most days, and I get lost in figuring it out.

To counter the gloomy mood, I did a few things this week that I don’t normal do. Three, to be exact:

I created a painting.
I went out dancing.
I attended a poetry reading.

Only two of the three would surprise people who have known me for a long time. I love to dance. I have danced alone and with one person and with ten people and with thousands, but if you like to go out dancing you might agree that the right vibe has to be in place. Sometimes alcohol helps, and certainly the right music has to be playing. I got lucky Saturday night and joined a group of liquored-up ladies with a designated driver by my side, so I was free to indulge and get lost in the music. The excursion was an unexpected success because the nightclub was in Westlake Village, a tony suburb near where I live, not a place you’d normally find a bouncer/velvet rope/cover charge type of club. But there it was.

The surprises are the art and poetry.

life is good painting

I made this painting on Thursday night at a Mom’s Night Out that some of my colleagues produced for a fun event to raise awareness and collect supplies for charities that help children in hospitals. I had no idea what to expect except that there would be wine, and that was good enough for me. My friend Elizabeth came along and the two of us sat in the corner (“Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” I joked but we stayed there anyway) following directions, more or less, and the end result makes me so proud I love to look at it and show people and say “I made this!” Who knew?

And then the third event in this artistic trifecta was the poetry reading I attended yesterday. My friend and sometimes writing partner Deborah is a poet. “I don’t get poetry,” I confessed to her once, in much the same vein as I say I don’t like art, and when I say “like” I mean I don’t understand it, I just know what I think is pleasing to the eye, but I don’t always know why. But Deborah has just been published in a poetry anthology called Beyond the Lyric Moment, and I love her, so I drove across town and self-consciously took a seat in a hall attached to a church and sipped my peppermint tea and opened my mind thinking “Bring it, poets.”

And the poets brought it.

I compared the experience to a friend later. I said it was like each poet (and there were at least two dozen of them) read a poem that was a small piece of rich, nuanced fudge, so delicious that you moan with pleasure when you take a bite, or with such odd combinations of flavor that you cock your head and try to identify them – is that cinnamon? Jalapeno? And after five or six bites you are sated, filled up with rich chocolate and curious tastes, that it’s time for a cleansing glass of water or a deep inhalation of the scent coffee beans, to clear the palate and your head. Additional fudge is lost on your overstimulated tongue.

I was prepared to not get the poetry, but I was moved by the speakers’ words, their tiny stories, their emotion. Some of them had clearly practiced the cadence of poetry reading, and I had to close my eyes or look away so I would not be distracted by their subtle, or not so, theatrics. My own Deborah’s understated reading was elegant and spun a clear scene of complicated emotions and dying flowers. I was there with her, with the poet whose car crashed in a field, with the man mourning a lost friend, with the woman who planted a garden to attract angels.

I bought the book. I want to see if the words on the page move me like the performances did, or in a different way.

The bottom line is that all this art and poetry and music and movement out of my comfort zone – the one in which I am dressed in lounge pants and an oversized T-shirt, snuggled in my bed reading a novel or watching The Big Bang Theory, transported, saved for a moment from my own restless brain – this departure from what comes easily has helped me remember that I am capable of adventure, however suburban and contained it must be for now. Stories can come from infinite distances within, after all. The little tornadoes inside me can manifest through the keyboard, where I can be 21 again, jumping up and down on the dance floor without worrying that I’ll pee in my Spanx.

Healthy Winter Hair – #Fabchat Teams Up With Viviscal

Viviscal products

#Fabchat, the awesome casual Twitter chat I co-host with MomsLA and Romy Raves, is better than ever, happening the 2nd Wednesday of each month. Next week on November 12 we will be joined by Viviscal and a conversation about keeping your hair fabulous and healthy during winter. When the weather is especially dry, and your hair is under a lot of stress because you are styling it for holiday parties and gatherings, it can suffer the consequences.

We’ll be sharing and talking tips and advice (and the usual #fabchat hijinks) and really for the first time (at least for me) focusing on winter. Plus we’ll be giving away prizes so make sure to RSVP below!

Viviscal products are designed to help nourish your hair. The dietary supplements are formulated with the exclusive marine complex AminoMar®, which helps to nourish thinning hair and promote existing healthy hair growth from within. Viviscal Hair and Scalp Serum maintains a healthy scalp and promotes the appearance of thicker, fuller looking hair. And the Hair Filler Fibers are easy-to-use, microscopic, electrostatically charged fibers that adhere to your existing hair to instantly add the look of volume and fullness to hair.

Join #FabChat on Wednesday, Nov 12 at 10am Pacific! Follow @kimtracyprince, @romyraves, @sauerswald, @yvonneinla, and @viviscal_US!

Tell your friends! Tweet:
Join us 11/12 10am PT for #FabChat 4 Healthy Hair Tips! #spon by @Viviscal_US w/@MomsLA @RomyRaves @KimTracyPrince @SAuerswald @YvonneInLA

Four lucky winners (RSVP below to be eligible) will win prizes:

During the Party, we’ll be giving away 4 awesome prizes worth $875 total! You must RSVP here and join the party to be eligible to win.

Prize #1 – A 3-month supply of Viviscal Extra Strength dietary supplements (180 tabs) Retail value: $150.00

Prize #2 – A 3-month supply of Viviscal Extra Strength dietary supplements (180 tabs) Retail value: $150.00

Prize #3 – Viviscal Hair & Scalp Serum + 3-month supply of Viviscal Extra Strength dietary supplements (180 tabs) PLUS a $50 Visa gift card – Total retail value: $230

Prize #4 – Grand prize: 3-month supply of Viviscal Extra Strength dietary supplements (180 tabs) + choose 3 colors of Viviscal Hair Filler Fibers — PLUS a $100 Visa gift card! Total retail value: $325

Office Closet Before & After

I gave myself the deadline of September 24. I failed. But! I finally finished a month later.

Before

messy office closet

After

IMG_6428